Expert Advice: Downsizing a Collection

Victoriana aficionados share how they downsized their collections for a unit in a prewar building.

Custom shoji screens widen the dining room, developing the theme (and blocking a bad view). A mah jongg table is the site of all meals.

Our previous homes have been Victorian period pieces. But when we downsized, the approach had to change. We decided to keep our 19th-century Chinese and Japanese collections, and sell everything else.

Pianos visually read Occidental, and ours was on display. Clearly, Japanese period decorating was out. We envisioned “Eclectic Oriental.” Our Meiji-era (1868–1912) pieces are timeless, as is the Japanese aesthetic. Multi-purpose chests (tansu) serve storage needs. Woodblock prints (ukiyo-e) and scrolls (kakejiku) decorate walls. Electrified oil lamps (andon) act as table lamps. Qing Dynasty chairs and tables fill in the blanks.


Muted antique tribal rugs work well with our furniture. By focusing on pieces that fit the space without fighting each other, we’re as comfortable now as when we lived in the Victorian past.

Bonus: Tour the author’s previous home.


Tags: apartment collectibles OHJ September 2014 Old-House Journal Philip Clayton-Thompson Steve Austin

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